Ofcom has released a statement outlining an approach towards future regulation of super-fast broadband services.
The UK telecommunications industry regulator claims the document will clear the way for companies and organisations to invest in super-fast broadband services for UK homes and businesses and deliver consumer benefits from both investment and competition.
Ofcom said next generation broadband can deliver speeds of up to 10 times the level of today’s broadband services, which would allow home users to watch high-definition TV over the internet, and businesses to make better use of video conferencing and home working opportunities.
In the home, it will allow different members of a household to access a variety of high-bandwidth services simultaneously. This could include watching high-definition TV, playing interactive online games and streaming or downloading music, TV programmes and films over the internet.
For businesses, it will enable simultaneous services such as two-way video calls, improved data retrieval and provide more opportunities for home working.
Ofcom claimed super-fast broadband can be delivered in a number of ways, with fibre, cable, copper wires, mobile, fixed wireless and satellite each having a role to play.
A number of companies have already announced plans to invest in and roll out super-fast broadband in the UK over these networks. These include Virgin Media, which already offers super-fast broadband and plans to extend this offer across its entire network, and BT, which plans to upgrade its copper access network with fibre-optic cable.
The main focus of Ofcom’s statement is on the upgrade of the copper access network to fibre, as it connects most homes and businesses in the UK.
There are two ways that companies will be able to provide super-fast broadband over a fibre access network. Communication providers could access BT’s new fibre access network on a wholesale basis by buying products from Openreach, BT’s operationally separate business unit responsible for its access network.
They could also combine their own electronics with physical infrastructure rented from BT to deliver services.
Ofcom believes it can promote private sector investment and competition through offering wholesale pricing freedom and access to all companies, offering a generous return rate to investors, and efficient network management avoiding duplicity.
Ofcom will also work closely with the European Commission on its recommendations on next generation access, work with the industry on developing a standard active wholesale product and consider the potential for existing underground duct infrastructure to contribute to the rollout of super-fast broadband.
Ofcom also commissioned a survey of BT’s underground telecoms ducts to determine if they hold space for fibre-optic cables. It revealed that around 50 per cent of the ducts have room to carry new cables.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: “Our message today is clear: there are no regulatory barriers in the way of investment in super-fast broadband; we want to promote investment but also ensure that there is fair and effective competition for the future.”